Computers are a utility — they should behave like one

Wherein I get a bit ranty about some bad computering.
21st April 2019, three minutes to read

This post inspired by yet again going to pootle around on my personal “computers” at the weekend, and yet again one of them decides to just get “in the way” for nearly an hour before I can actually use it for the purpose intended.

Despite working in the tech industry, and spending 8 hours a day talking about software, technology, & solutions to technically-inclined problems, I’m a sucker for punishment. I like write software at the weekend! Or maybe I just want a big display & precision pointer — or I’m a luddite. Whatever.

So, after a week of using mobile devices for personal internetting all week with nary an issue (I’m addicted to the internet), I open my devices on for the first time in a week — they’ve both been connected to power & ethernet for that week — ready to get going on some programming problem or whatever I was going to do.

One of them works fine 99% of the time. Sometimes, it takes a moment to catch up on messages; mostly it’s speedy and fine. One of them — oh boy — never works well until it’s had a few minutes to sort it self out. Then it decides to apply some update or something — which might not require a reboot, but still makes the device very unhappy. Then my IDE decides it needs an update, which often goes smoothly, but I wish it would do while it was asleep.

This puts me an hour in before I’ve done anything meaningful. This isn’t acceptable, and changes my relationship with technology when being used to do something enjoyable. It makes it a chore, and removes any joy.

This week it took me an hour to fix a non-functional device — I couldn’t type or _use the built in trackpad. I then spent another 45 minutes cleaning up the almost full SSD, which I believe was causing the performance to drop off a cliff — partially removed windows feature update installers (looking at you $GetCurrent folder), and some other general non-user-created slosh.

My two devices? An entry-level MacBook refurb with a Core-m3 CPU, and an entry-level Surface Laptop 2, with Core i5. Both 8gb of RAM.

Guess which one was the problematic device?

Yep, it’s a cliche: the Surface Laptop 2. It’s problems aren’t unique — these are general windows foibles, and have plagued windows for decades.

This swirls in my head, and I think about the current narrative about Apple’s neglection of the Mac. People will trot out the ‘I switched to Windows, and its so much better’; maybe their experiences really are much better. But I can’t match that; I just don’t have a reliable experience with my Windows devices anymore.

To put it another way — I know when I come to my MacBook it’s going to behave like it did a week ago, or two weeks ago, or a month ago. I’ll open it up, it’ll be mostly-sync’d with all my content, and I’ll get into what I was intending to do right away. My Surface Laptop? Nope, I can’t say that. I know I’ll have to fiddle with something.

My MacBook is predictable, like a utility. My Surface is unpredictable, with no upside. It wasn’t cheaper, and it doesn’t behave any faster. Why should I continue to put energy into it when, to channel Marie Kondo, it doesn’t bring me joy.

Turned my 19H1 Surface Laptop 2 on for the first time in maybe a week.

Nope - 2x reboots, no ⌨️/🐭